Jamie Bell, one of Ker & Downey’s Ugandan experts shares her experience in Bwindi National Park.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda has long been considered a highlight for most people visiting the country, and with good reason. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to roughly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, about 350 of them. The verdant maze of trees and vines of this national park provides a perfect home for these gentle giants and an adventure in Uganda unlike any other.
Our day started at 8am. Crawling out of my comfortable, full-size bed at Gorilla Forest Camp I could see the sun over the tree-covered rise and fall of the Albertine Rift Valley at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We had a meeting with the Warden about the background of gorilla trekking, the way to behave in the forest, things we would see, and a short video on the gorillas themselves and the habituation experience.
After this quick briefing, eight of us set out with a guide and two armed Bwindi rangers, since this is the maximum number of visitors allowed to minimize disturbances and risk of human-borne diseases. We trekked for a good while, over the hills, in and around the thickness of the forest which seemed to be never ending. It was obvious to me why this was such a great home for mountain gorillas.
Several hours into our trek, we finally came upon a gorilla group and our guides instructed us to keep our voices low. The magnificence of these animals was astounding. I marveled at adult and baby gorillas alike, as they climbed the trees, sat on the ground in human-like positions, and snacked on the nearby vegetation and banana trees.
We kept a minimum of twenty-one feet from the gorillas as instructed, never looking them in the eye. We were allowed one mesmerizing hour with these forest mammals, taking as many non-flash pictures as we could.
All in all, I never thought I could do it, but I did. The gorilla trekking adventure was something I would always do again. It is the anticipation, adventure and most of all, the challenge to get to see the gorillas that make this experience unforgettable.